President Mantella holds virtual Laker town hall meeting for parents and guardians

Screen shot of zoom meeting with university leaders.
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

President Philomena V. Mantella led a virtual town hall meeting April 8 to update parents and student guardians and supporters on how the university is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A series of virtual town hall meetings has been scheduled to connect with members of the campus community. More than 400 parents or guardians joined the April 8 session by phone or computer.

Mantella said learning opportunities remain strong at Grand Valley; she thanked parents for their flexibility and encouraged them to stay connected to the university to receive the latest information.

"University leadership is meeting daily as we make decisions for the well-being of our students," said Mantella. "We are focused on relationships with students and we are guided by our values, and students are our central value."

University leaders answered questions about university finances, remote learning, student support services and academic policies. Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity and executive associate for Presidential Initiatives, served as moderator.

Mantella said remote learning will continue through the spring semester; no decision has been made about the summer semester. She said when remote learning began, technology devices were issued to students who needed them and the university continues to reach out to the few students who are having connectivity issues.

"We are in the process of contacting each student to offer help, connect them to virtual resources and to answer their questions," she said.

Mantella stressed that all university services are fully available virtually, specifically noting the Financial Aid office, Admissions, student advising, the Counseling Center and Career Services.

"We have created a process to respond to the many situations families are facing, so please reach out with what you are confronting so we can support you," she said.

Key points from university leaders:

* Michelle Rhodes, associate vice president for Financial Aid, said there is a process in place to help students through financial situations that might be changing. She said there is some flexibility regarding scholarship guidelines. Rhodes said merit scholarships, typically based on academic achievement, will be awarded as long as a student continues to move toward earning a degree. Visit for more information or call (616) 331-3234.

Emergency funds are being used to help students needing financial aid through the Student Support Fund

* Jodi Chycinski, associate vice president and director of Admissions, said prospective students don't need to wait to schedule a virtual visit. Admissions counselors are available to help students register or apply. Visit for more information or call (616) 331-2025.

* Lynn "Chick" Blue, vice president for Enrollment Development, said diplomas will be mailed as usual. Blue said students who applied to graduate at the end of the semester will receive their diploma in the mail after transcripts are audited in May.

* Provost Maria Cimitile outlined the extension in place for credit/no credit and for taking an incomplete for a class. Cimitile said students who need help adjusting to remote learning should contact the Student Academic Success Center

* Greg Sanial, vice president for Finance and Administration, said the university is in a sound financial position. He said while the university's main sources of revenue (state funding and tuition) will be impacted by the pandemic, the university has always had conservative budgeting practices.

To a register for a town hall meeting, visit